Franzen house / SchappacherWhite

Architects: SchappacherWhite Ltd. & Gregory Cranford – Brennan Beer Gorman Architects
Location: New London, Connecticut,
Principal: Steve Schappacher
Design/Restoration Architect: Gregory Cranford
Interiors: Ltd.
Construction: Mixed Structure
Project Year: 2005
Photographs: SchappacherWhite Ltd.

Hugging the shores of the Long Island Sound, Ulrich Franzen’s ‘Castle House’ typifies the school of East Coast modernism established by the generation of post-Bauhaus architects at work in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s when personal expression and dramatic effects were no longer illicit.  This house was built on a historic rock outcropping adjacent to an eighteenth century landmark lighthouse facing the sea.  This modern classic, almost a fallen victim to total demolition, has undergone a complete renovation and expansion by SchappacherWhite Ltd. and Brennan Beer Gorman/Architects (BBG), that honors Franzen’s original design intent while satisfying the needs of a 21st century family.

original plan

new project plan

Ulrich Franzen’s vision for the house, which was completed in 1964, represents the forefront of early 1960′s residential design.  The home’s signature element is its dramatic free floating glass living room pavilion with cantilevered paraboloid vaults and flanking service wings.  The pavilion’s cypress butterfly ceiling has been restored and all new furnishings selected for the home, including a 14′ custom designed Nakashima dining table.

To remedy a flaw in the original design that sought to direct views away from the water, the architects introduced two new sets of 9′ tall sliding glass panels into the central building, replacing solid walls.  The new windows now provide stunning vistas across the landscaped pool area and onto the Sound beyond from both the master bedroom and kitchen/family room.  The bedroom wing was extended to accommodate the size of the client’s family and a staircase added to a lower level playroom.

The existing kitchen has been expanded and includes a family dining area, creating a fluid and open plan that matches the new owner’s lifestyle.  Original details were carefully studied and retained in the Modern spirit of the new kitchen, which features the reuse of the original material palette of birdseye maple casework, white lacquer cabinets and luminous white marble countertops.

Originally the waterside site was treated as a rough rocky outcropping.  New landscape design has softened the house’s setting, offering a reconceived approach to the water, as well as the public and private sides of the home.  Since the lot is semi-surround by water and limited in size, it was determined that a variety of places to occupy and sit should be provided for.  For example, the reconstructed circular dining platform hung above the waters is just a short distance from the renovated kitchen, but offers a unique and removed experience.

It was not an easy exercise matching the rigor of the existing scheme. The more it was studied, the more the architects became enthralled with the intricate and complex geometries of the details.  Every line in the house was considered, every detail obsessed over, so that the spirit of the house, even in the areas completely redesigned, remain true to the original.

Franzen’s houses have an important place in our country’s architectural history.  Your readers are attuned to the significance of homes such as this and would surely be interested to see how contemporary residents are preserving a piece of history while living very much in the present.

Products in this project

Bathroom Equipment: Toto

  • Toilets by Toto

Floor: ABC Carpet & Home, Artistic Tile Inc.

  • Carpet by ABC Carpet & Home
  • Tile by Artistic Tile Inc.

Furniture: George Nakashima Woodworker, B&B Italia, Herman Miller , Knoll, Antonio Citterio

  • Dining table and bench by George Nakashima Woodworker
  • Coffee Table by B&B Italia
  • Seating system (sofas) by B&B Italia
  • Platform Bench by Herman Miller
  • Womb Chair by Knoll
  • Dining Chairs: 9617 Maxalto Collection by B&B Italia
  • Seating system (sofas) by Antonio Citterio
  • Eero Saarinen tulip chair by Knoll

Joinery: Arcadia, Inc., Ann Baderian Ltd.

  • Windows by Arcadia, Inc.
  • Window Covering by Ann Baderian Ltd.

Kitchen Equipment: Rohl, SchappacherWhite Ltd. , KWC, Joshua Friedman & Co. LLC

  • Faucets by Rohl
  • Custom furniture and kitchen design by SchappacherWhite Ltd.
  • Kitchen by KWC
  • Kitchen Cabinetry by Joshua Friedman & Co. LLC

Lighting, Heating, Home/building automation: Nessen

  • Lamps by Nessen

Staircases, Elevators, Moving walks: ASAP Engineering and Design Co.

  • Stairs by ASAP Engineering and Design Co.

Walls: New England Stone, Benjamin Moore

  • Stone by New England Stone
  • OC-17 White Dove by Benjamin Moore
Cite: "Franzen house / SchappacherWhite" 29 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Would it not seem that an important architectural house with an equally sensitive restoration and studied expansion deserves to be documented in a better way? It is a baffling challenge trying to understand why professionals, particularly in the field of restoration and preservation, feel that it is appropriate to present their work to the world using cellphone photography. The house, Ulrich Franzen, the owners, and your own studio deserve better than that.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • francis

    What a site, WOW! The house is so lucky exist there.

  • Bo Lucky

    Nice house and it seems that Gregory Cranford did a good and sensible rehabilitation.

  • Ceno

    this house looks really comfortable

  • Lulu

    Beautiful house. Given the accessability of the photos it seems as if the architechts were gognizant of keeping with Franzen’s concept whilst giving it a “new modern” feel. Well done!